10 Things to Do in Lisbon

Lisbon

Lisbon

If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw that I was in Lisbon last weekend with Katy. We enjoyed 3 days in the city. It was both of our first visits to Lisbon, in fact, our first visit to Portugal in general. We were excited to explore Lisbon after receiving plenty of recommendations from friends – it seems a bit of a hot spot this year. And now having visited, we can certainly see why.

The city has everything you could want from a city break – culture, street art, history, fantastic bars and restaurants, a buzzy atmosphere, great weather and very inexpensive.

The Indy House

We stayed at the wonderful The Indy House – a boutique hotel, located a short 15 minute walk from the city centre. We loved our stay here. The staff at The Indy House are extremely welcoming, speak perfect English and had lots of great recommendations for our time in the capital. It was a great location to also explore Alfama, which I’ll touch on later. Plus they have another couple of hotels in their portfolio, which you’re able to enjoy. One of which has a roof top bar called Insolito, in the Bairro Alto area, which is great for bars and restaurants.

It’s no surprise that a lot of my favourite things to do in Lisbon, revolved around eating and drinking. They have a great food and drink culture, with many trendy spots dotted all over.

Top 10 Things to Do in Lisbon:

  1. Eat Pastel de Nata at Pasteis de Belem
  2. Visit Sintra
  3. Explore Alfama on foot
  4. Cocktails at PARK rooftop bar
  5. Eat Asian food at Boa Bao
  6. Brunch at Dear Breakfast
  7. Gelato at Santini
  8. Bar hop in Bairro Alto
  9. Lunch at Cafe Janis
  10. Visit Time Out market

Pasteis de Belem

  • Eat Pastel de Nata at Pasteis de Belem

You’ve probably already tried a Pastel de Nata, and if not, why not?! They’re Portuguese custard tarts and they are amazing. Deliciously smooth and sugary custard in a flakey pastry, gently caramelised on top. There are plenty of places in Lisbon to try them, but Pasteis de Belem came highly recommended by two Portuguese friends of ours. So for me, that means this place is the best! And after having tried 4 different places during our visit (we ate so many), I have to agree. They’re absolutely delicious and even better warm, freshly baked.

Belem is just outside Lisbon. About a 15 minute train ride away, and only costs around 2 euros return. It’s a pretty place too, so you could easily make a morning or afternoon of it. Whilst Pasteis de Belem make lots of incredible pastry desserts, you have to try their pasteis. Founded in 1837, they continue to use their top secret recipe and attract hundreds of visitors (both tourists and locals) every day. What seems like a small cake shop from the outside, expands into a gigantic restaurant, with tables that keep going and going. Honestly, it’s massive! And yet, it’s so popular, that you still have to queue. But it’s worth it I promise. Definitely take a seat and enjoy a fresh pastel de nata with a coffee. Or do as the table next to us did and order practically one of everything… And they ate it all. Very impressive!

Pasteis de Belem Pena Palace

  • Visit Sintra

Sintra is a beautiful historic town, located just under an hour’s train ride from Lisbon, and a mere 2 euro ticket. Surrounded by lush greenery, Sintra offers incredible views across the Portuguese landscape and further out to sea. It was a royal sanctuary for a long time, and is home to two impressive palaces and a castle on top of a mountain. The architecture is brightly coloured and dramatic, with ornate tile detailing. Pena National Palace is the most popular attraction here, but be warned – arrive early! Queues can reach hours long, even in the off-peak season. If you do go, ensure you wait for a bus outside Sintra train station. We avoided it, thinking it would be cheaper and quicker to walk up to the palace. But it’s about an hour’s trek to the top and in soaring heat, it can become too much. The queues looked long for the buses, but we were greeted with just as long queues at the palace to buy tickets. So in hind sight we should’ve got on the bus first thing in the morning, and bought tickets online beforehand, skipping the queue at the top.

Pena National Palace

There was also a queue inside the grounds to get into the actual palace, despite having just queued for 20 minutes to purchase a ticket. At the time we went this queue was a further 2 hours, but someone let us into a secret – you can skip this queue by walking further up to the gift shop. On the 2nd floor of the gift shop is a cafe, which has outdoor seating that leads into the palace terraces. From here you have access to the vast majority of the palace and have saved yourself hours of mindless queuing. We think the queue did see a small section of the palace that we couldn’t reach, but we were more than happy with what we saw.

Also, be sure to get the ticket that includes the gardens – they are stunning! Perhaps even more beautiful than the palace itself. You could easily spend hours wandering around these at your leisure. They are so impressive.

From here we walked back down into Sintra town centre. The walk down was much easier than the walk up and was actually a really beautiful walk offering fantastic views. So I’d definitely recommend the bus up but walk down. We didn’t go into the castle, which is also located on this walk, a further 15 minutes past Pena National Palace, but instead we found a second palace that is a must visit.

Quinta da Regaleira Sintra

Quinta da Regaleira is located near the historic centre of Sintra and is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It costs just 8 euros to go inside and includes a host of mesmerising waterfalls, deep wells (that you can walk in the walls of), secret passageways, large caves and gothic architecture. We couldn’t believe how much there was to see here and how interesting the gardens were. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it. I can imagine as a child, growing up here, they must’ve had hours of fun playing hide and seek. We’d go into one cave and end up in a completely different location. And the best thing, this park was far less crowded than Pena Palace and costs a third of the price. Definitely check it out if you have time.

Sintra Alfama Lisbon

  • Explore Alfama on foot

As I mentioned earlier, Alfama was an area of Lisbon near our hotel. It’s home to Lisbon’s castle – Castelo de S. Jorge – and is a beautiful hilly area with winding cobbled streets, old trams, cute houses and tiny cafes, bars and restaurants. We spent hours meandering through this area, taking photos and there was still so much more to see. It’s a really beautiful area of the city.

Alfama tramPARK rooftop Lisbon

  • Cocktails at PARK rooftop bar

This is a popular spot with tourists and locals alike. Located on top of a carpark, this bar offers great views over Lisbon and all of the tables and chairs conveniently face the direction of the sun, making it a great spot to catch some rays. The cocktail menu is great and they offer waiter service, or there are 3 bars to choose from if you can’t wait. We spent a couple of hours here, soaking up the later afternoon sun.

Boa Bao LisbonBoa Bao Lisbon

  • Eat Asian food at Boa Bao

I know I know, we shouldn’t really go to Portugal and then rave about their Asian food, but this place is too good not to share! With queues outside the door, it’s easy to see why Boa Bao is so popular. I’m not lying when I say, we ate some of the best Asian food I’ve ever had here. A mix of Indian, Thai and Korean, we shared the vegetarian dim sum and veggie spring rolls to start, followed by a Pad Thai each – I chose the tiger prawn, whilst Katy opted for tofu. All of the food was exquisite and the cocktails were delicious. Mine was served in this fun metal can that had been purposely shaped for your thumb and fingers to make it easier to hold, and came with a bamboo straw – love that!

Dear Breakfast

  • Brunch at Dear Breakfast

We had great brunch every day we were in Lisbon. There are lots of places to choose from, all with beautiful interiors, friendly staff and a great menu. But Dear Breakfast stands out. Prepare to queue, but it’s worth it. The staff are really friendly, it has a lovely chilled vibe to it and the food is delicious. We had their take on Huevos Rancheros and it was perfectly light, well balanced and tasted wonderful. All of the dishes on their small but perfectly formed menu looked great to be fair.

Santini Lisbon

  • Gelato at Santini

Another recommendation from our Portuguese friends – if you’re looking to cool down with an ice-cream, head no further than Santini. Located in both Lisbon and Porto, Santini has been operating since 1949, incorporating American diner vibes with some of the best gelato I’ve ever tasted. Eduardo Santini serves up the same quality gelato he did all those years ago, using the same recipes, with 100% natural flavourings. The flavours on the menu change with the seasons, but no matter when you go, I’m sure you’ll have a hard time choosing, as there are so many great ones on the menu. We opted for green apple and mango in one, and vanilla and salted caramel in another. The salted caramel was our favourite, and tasted like the caramelised layer on a creme brûlée!

  • Bar hop in Bairro Alto

We didn’t do this enough, but as we wandered through Bairro Alto, tram spotting and photographing cute houses (literally all we do), we spotted so many nice bars. Apparently this is the area to go out in, and we could see why. Lots and lots of bars, full of locals spilling out onto the cobbled streets. It had a really good vibe about it. If we go again, we’ll definitely have to do more drinking here!

Cafe Janis Lisbon Cafe Janis Lisbon

  • Lunch at Cafe Janis

Cafe Janis was another place we went for brunch, but I’ve recommended it for lunch, as I’ve picked Dear Breakfast for brunch. But really they’re both equally as good for both brunch and lunch. Ha! Put them both on your list, immediately. Cafe Janis serves up fresh, colourful food, and equally colourful juices, surrounded by greenery and terracotta walls. Communal dining on reclaimed wooden tables and benches, reminded me of a lot of places we visited in New York. It has a really nice vibe and the staff were so friendly and really funny. Great if you need to do a spot of blogging too, as a few people there had their laptops, and the staff seemed in no rush to get rid of you.

Time Out Market Lisbon

  • Visit Time Out Market

I’m sure everyone does this when they go to Lisbon, but it really is quite good. It’s the only place where you can find the best eateries of Lisbon all under one roof. It’s a giant food market of sorts, with vendors all around the edge and huge communal tables in the middle. Here you can try a bit of everything, or opt for one of the restaurants around the outside that have their own dine in tables. We expected it to be busy, but we went on a Sunday afternoon and it was fine. There were no queues and we found a seat straight away.

 

Have you been to Lisbon? I’d love to hear your recommendations, and whether you enjoyed any of mine.

10 Things to Do in Lisbon

April 18, 2019